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NeXT Computer

Last Edit: 13/08/17

The NeXT Computer was a workstation computer system that was developed by NeXT, an American technology firm located in Redwood City, California. The first NeXT Computer was available for sale in 1989, and cost in the region of $6,500-$7000 for the university market, and in the region of $9,999-$13,000 for the retail market (depending on configuration). Components for the original NeXT Computer included: Motorola 68030 32-bit microprocessor; 256MB magneto-optical storage drive; built-in Ethernet; 330MB or 660MB hard disk; and the NeXTSTEP operating system, whose back-end was a highly reliable Unix based multitasking operating system.

NeXT Computer, used by Tim Berners-Lee when he launched the web in the early 1990's.
(Pictured: Two versions of the NeXT workstation computer)

NeXT was founded by Steve Jobs in 1985, after he was ousted from Apple Computers by John Sculley; Sculley was a former Pepsi executive who Jobs had hired to run Apple in 1983. Jobs managed the Macintosh department of Apple in the 1980s, and had been overseeing the sale of Apple Macintosh computers to U.S. universities. When sales began to stall in 1984, unrest within Apple led to his resignation. Sculley wanted to reorganise Apple, Jobs' disagreed with his plans, and due to Sculley having more support (votes), Jobs was powerless and resigned. Due to Jobs' close relationship with universities, and their scientific laboratories, it had come to his attention that they were in need of a powerful computer system that could simulate scientific experiments. In 1985, Jobs founded NeXT with the help of five senior Apple employees, who had resigned with Jobs, and they set about creating the powerful workstation computer system craved by said universities.

The NeXT computer was developed from 1985-1988, the branding for the company was created by Paul Rand, and its logo was publicly released in 1986. The software/hardware for the NeXT system was created by NeXT employees that included: Joanna Hoffman, Avie Tevanian, George Crow, Bud Tribble, Rich Page, Susan Barnes, and Dan Lewin. The NEXT Computer was officially presented at the NeXT Introduction event: held in October 1988 at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, which is located at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. Steve Jobs' presentation was well-received - the event was featured in the Steve Jobs movie starring Michael Fassbender - and led to a limited number of NeXT computers being sold to the university market in 1989. The NeXT Computer was sold to the retail market in 1990, and cost considerable more than the system sold to the university market; roughly between 30-50% more, depending on the system configuration.

It was not long before a second generation of NeXT computer systems were released, featuring two systems: the NeXTstation and the NeXTcube. In 1993, due to disappointing sales of its workstations, NeXT transitioned from being a hardware/software developer to becoming a software developer; resulting in hundreds of NeXT employees being fired. NeXT was purchased by Apple in 1996, and the two companies merged in 1997. Jobs rejoined Apple, and oversaw the porting of NeXTSTEP into the Apple's Mac OS X Server and PowerPC architecture.

The original NeXT Computer was extremely popular with UNIX-friendly research institutions and university science departments - the system was shipped with software that included object oriented development libraries/tools. Tim Berners-Lee used this computer system, and it's development tools, to write the first web server software: named CERN httpd. Tim Berners-Lee's NeXT Computer became the first ever web server in 1991. Alongside using his NeXT Computer to write web server software: Berners-Lee also used the computer to develop the first web browser: named WorldWideWeb. Tim Berners-Lee's NeXT Computer is now a museum piece, and it is noted for the sticker on the front of the workstation that states "This machine is a server, do not power down".